You will be well aware of the impact that the risk of Covid-19 has had on every aspect of what was ‘normal’ life, particularly in the central belt. As you know, the provision of routine dental care has also been affected, with the Chief Dental Officer closing all NHS dental practices in Scotland, when lockdown was imposed in March of this year. This step was taken in part to support social distancing by reducing the close contact between patients and dentists in a practice, and in part because when your dentist provides treatment for you, the drills and cleaning tools create a fine mist of a mix of water and your saliva. This fine mist or aerosol could pose a risk in terms of transmission of the virus that causes Covid-19.
Since then, everyone in your dental practice has worked incredibly hard to design processes and procedures to ensure that anyone who enters, patients or staff, are kept safe. As a result, when the First Minister announced during the summer that dental practices could open their doors to treat patients with emergencies as the first part of the phased recovery, your practice was one of the first in the country to open.
These safety processes have been tried, tested, and shown to be safe. This means there has been a gradual increase in the range of NHS dental care available, but this has had to be carefully planned nationally, in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
This confidence in the safety of dentistry has allowed the Scottish Government to announce that, from the beginning of November, dentists can deliver the full range of care that was available under the NHS prior to lockdown. This news is really welcome for us all as your dentist can now ‘finish the job’ that has been started by managing urgent care needs.
However, whilst the full range of care CAN now be delivered, there are additional complexities that have come to the fore as a result of the last eight months.
Firstly, and most importantly, safety for you as a patient and for the dental team needs to be maintained, so social distancing, allowing any mist in the surgery to settle, and the thorough cleaning of surfaces, all takes a significant amount of time. This means that the time when the dental surgery can’t be used between appointments will be longer to support safe practice, resulting in fewer appointments being available in the normal working day.
Secondly, eight months of routine dental care has not been delivered between March and October, resulting in a substantial backlog of care that is required. The delivery of care by your dentist will be prioritised to ensure that the patients with pain or potential tooth loss are treated first, and procedures that are desirable but have a lesser priority in terms of the practice as a whole may need to be delayed until the backlog has been managed. This will take a substantial amount of time with the current restrictions.
It is our intention to keep a log of all outstanding NHS treatments and complete these when a return to normal NHS patient volume is advised. You will be aware that you are entitled to be offered all of the treatment options and some of our patients may elect to have any outstanding treatment done privately. Generally, more time will be allocated to these appointments, which in turn limits patient numbers. Please trust your dentist to explain whether your NHS treatment falls into the urgent category - they must make that decision based upon the overall level of activity within the practice. Examples of these are pain, infection and active decay. We will prioritise all check-ups in the first instance, with emphasis on cancer screening.
Covid-19 has disrupted nearly all aspects of life and it looks it will do for some months to come. This means that in dentistry, like every other aspect of healthcare in the NHS, appointments may take months to become available and a return to ‘normal service’ will undertake a considerable amount of time. As a result, we must ask for you to be patient, as we endeavour to establish your dental care. Please be reassured that, your dentist has your dental health at the centre of their thoughts, and is striving to deliver your dental care as soon as possible.
Although things may not be quite the same as they were before, we want to reassure you that the same, friendly dental team at Envisage Tweedsmuir are still here to help when you need us. So, if you have a dental concern please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We look forward to safely welcoming you back to our practice again in the future.
Your EnVisage Dentistry Team